By Alanna Taylor
Over 200 workers, members of SIPTU, are being made redundant and 160 beds will be lost from Ireland’s already overwhelmed health service due to the closure of three healthcare facilities owned by the Sisters of Charity.
Caritas Convalescent Centre on Merrion Road has been closed since March due to a Covid outbreak where one third of the workforce contracted the virus; and on 9 July the High Court appointed liquidators to the operating company. Similarly, liquidators have been appointed to St. Mary’s Centre Nursing Home on Merrion Road and St. Monica’s Nursing Home at Belvedere Place which are due to close by the end of 2020. Dedicated staff are primarily concerned with the associated risk with transferring residents from a Covid-free home to an unknown future, which has inspired the campaign to save these facilities.
Non-compliance with Health Information Quality Authority (HIQA) standards and a claimed inability to fund the required changes to bring the facility in compliance with HIQA standards has been given as the reason behind the closure, despite non-compliance being primarily related to governance. The move has put the loyal workers, residents and their families under considerable stress, and all during a health pandemic.
This liquidation technique mirrors the story of Debenhams and there has been a strong sense of solidarity between the groups. The workers see this as an opportunity to challenge the treatment of workers with the long-term view of preventing the same thing happening to others. This is crucial timing given the looming economic recession and inevitable lay-offs.
State must act
Staff member Shay Ryan from the “Save St. Mary’s” campaign stated that, “The workers, residents and their families are demanding that the HSE and Stephen Donnelly as the Minister for Health intervene and save this unique facility. The longstanding commitment of the workers and the significant achievement of keeping all residents Covid free throughout the pandemic illustrates that this is a well-functioning facility with a deep-rooted community worth saving”.
The government should take these facilities into public ownership under the control and management of the staff, as part of the immediate response to the health emergency, as well as the longer term needs of the health system.